NEWS RELEASE September 2019
Biomass Ready Coal Fired Plants and Massive Tree Planting will be the Compromise Climate Change Solution
Coal provided 26 percent of the additional power generation last year and 38 percent of all generation. There are 500,000 MW of new coal fired generation in the planning stage. This is more than was ever installed in the Americas and Europe. So any programs to reduce coal fired generation on these two continents to zero would eliminate less than is being added elsewhere in the world.
The intergovernmental panel on climate change has a solution. One trillion trees can be planted. They will store an estimated 205 gigatons of carbon, or about two-thirds of the carbon that humans have added to the atmosphere since the 1800s.
The problem with this approach is that 30 years from now in 2050 there will be lots of trees dying and emitting CO2. However at that time the biomass can be harvested and burned in power generators. If the 500,000 MW of new coal fired capacity which is built is designed to be biomass ready it can be converted making each of the generators carbon neutral. If this CO2 is then sequestered these generators would be as the UK describes it “sucking the CO2 out of the air. They would be the only generator type which actually reduces CO2.
What are the costs? The continuation of the coal fired power program would net a savings of $7.2 trillion over 30 years. The tree planting program would cost $700 billion resulting in a $6.5 trillion saving over the 30 years. For the period 2050-2080 the coal plants would be converted to burn biomass and sequester CO2. This would raise costs of electricity generation and make this approach relatively costly.
|Saving with coal vs more expensive generation options
|Biomass combustion and sequestration
|Net cost differential
In 2050 these biomass ready coal plants would have already served their purpose as coal generators. Their conversion to biomass would insure that the forestation approach is sustaining in terms of CO2 minimization. However if there are major improvements in the cost of wind and solar, the plants could be retired.
Another option is to convert these plants to biomass combustion at an earlier date. There is optimism that the cost of sequestration can be greatly reduced through programs underway at Drax and other locations. If some of the most pessimistic forecasters are right and climate change becomes a crisis then the biomass generation and sequestration becomes the only route to solve the problem since it reduces CO2.